Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"A Light on the Hill" by Connilyn Cossette

A Light on the Hill (Cities of Refuge, #1)Having been branded in Jericho years before, Moriyah has given up on finding a husband, until her father arranges a match for her. When her attempt to please her future husband goes horribly wrong, she is forced to flee for her life, hoping to find safety in one of the Levitical cities of refuge. But that's if she can survive the journey first . . .

I really liked how the author brings out one of the more obscure parts of the old testament: the cities of refuge, a refuge for manslayers who have killed accidentally. Since there aren't any specific accounts of the cities in the bible--just the rules regarding them--it gives the author free reign to focus on the story without worrying about getting the biblical account wrong (something I'm generally keen to notice). And even so, the author surprised me with how adventurous this story managed to be; it wasn't what I expected, yet I liked it more, and it was fun to catch the connection to her previous series. And I can see how it is setting up the next book in the series.

I liked how the author was able to work new testament symbolism into an old testament-time story. Even though Jesus won't be born for another couple thousand years or so, the author brings out how the death of the high priest will atone for the guilt of the manslayers--implying that just as Jesus, also described as a high priest, atoned for the guilt of all in his death.

This is the kind of biblical fiction I like--fiction taking place in biblical times without trying to retell the bible. Adventurous, romantic, and full of hope.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Cities of Refuge
1. A Light on the Hill
2. Shelter of the Most High (October 2018)

Related series:
Out from Egypt1. Counted with the Stars
2. Shadow of the Storm
3. Wings of the Wind

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lisa T Bergren's "Keturah" - The Sugar Baron's Daughters, book 1

Keturah (The Sugar Baron's Daughters, #1)
In order to save the remains of their heritage after their father's death, Keturah and her sisters flaunt convention and travel to the West Indies on their own to take control of the sugar plantation. After a disastrous marriage, Keturah is determined never to let a man control her again, not even her well-meaning childhood friend Gray, who travels to Nevis Island at the same time. But life amongst the declining sugar barons is harder than they anticipate. Will Keturah be able to surrender her heart to find healing?

This is fairly bold story, taking on some harsh realities of history and the present day--from slavery to abuse--but also holds onto God's truth and speaks a message of hope.

I like the balance the author strikes in dealing with slavery--it isn't popular these days to have heroes and heroines that endorse it, but it was a such a part of history that it cannot be ignored, either. In the 1700's, there was no other feasible way to run a sugar plantation; slaves were a necessity, and Keturah and her sisters own some. But the Banning girls see the brutality of slavery and take pains to be fair owners. They even buck the traditions of the island in their willingness to deal with freed slaves.

Keturah reminded me a bit of Scarlett O'Hara, with all her drive and ambition, that determination to survive and live life on her own terms, but without Scarlett's selfishness and manipulation; while Scarlett was more than willing to turn on her sisters, Keturah will do everything in her power to keep hers safe. She still has some strong prejudices that fit her upbringing (I'm sure some people will find her intolerant), but she still comes far from where she starts. And she comes really far through her relationship with Gray; I appreciate how slow it takes, since Keturah needs time to heal and learn to trust again.

I found it a well-written and fascinating story. I look forward to Verity and Selah's stories!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

The Sugar Baron's Daughters
1. Keturah

Monday, February 12, 2018

"The Sea Before Us" by Sarah Sundin--a wonderful start to the series!

The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy, #1)When Wyatt Paxton and his two brothers were party to a devastating accident years ago, he fled and hasn't contacted his family since, wanting to make things right when the prodigal son returns. In the meantime, he's a naval lieutenant working as a liaison with British Intelligence to plan D-Day. Dorothy Fairfax, a Wren in the Women's Royal Naval Service whose intimate knowledge of Normandy is key to planning the invasion, is surprised by her developing friendship with the American. In the coming days, both could lose everything they most hold dear--yet their fears threaten to steal it away before battle has its chance.

I've consistently enjoyed every book by Sarah Sundin that I've ever read. But as I read each new release, I am enjoying it even more than the previous ones; the stories just keep getting better and better. How can this be when they've always been so consistently good?  This series has the promise to be heartbreakingly beautiful and redemptive--not just each individual book, but the series as a whole. I am excited for the books to come!

Wyatt is perfect--oh, he makes mistakes and is conflicted as anyone else, but he's a wonderful hero. Real men could take lessons from him in how to treat a woman! He's always genuine, an all or nothing kind of guy--either he'll give his whole heart or he won't give any; he won't trifle with a girl's affections (unlike certain others we could name . . . ). And in spite of his mistakes, he has clung to God, knowing that God is the only one who can see him through. Dolly is more flawed for not realizing her flaws. She's very real--maybe more so than many of us would like, because in the book it's easy to see where she's setting herself up for failure, while in real life when it's happening to us, it's easy to fall for the exact same trap as Dolly. But in spite of her insecurities and moments of self-delusion, she's very likable.

Even with the focus on such a well-known event as D-Day--where the outcome is clear--the author still manages to work some significant surprises into the story, which pleased me. They were more story-driven surprises rather than historical, but I enjoyed the twists. And as always, Sundin's attention to historical detail is superb.

Thank you Revell for the free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Sunrise At Normandy
1. The Sea Before Us
2. The Sky Above Us (2019)
3. The Land Beneath Us (2020)

Friday, February 9, 2018

"The Mayflower Bride" by Kimberley Woodhouse

The Mayflower Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #1)Mary Elizabeth Chapman and her separatist family board the Speedwell to make a new life in the colonies, but delays and hardship spring like leaks in their ship's hull. William Lytton is looking forward to starting anew in the new world, having been looked down upon for his past. When offered a job reporting the progress of the pilgrims, he accepts, little knowing that his position is coveted by someone less scrupulous. After many trials, which thrust Mary Elizabeth and William together, they arrive in the new world, but life on land--in winter--is hardly easier than it had been on the Mayflower. And William is danger not just from their surroundings, but of being branded a traitor.

It was interesting learning more about the Mayflower voyage and all the trials the people endured before arriving in the New World--not where they'd intended--and then the further trials of having arrived sick, weak, and without shelter or provision. In spite of being reminded of the pilgrims and Indians every Thanksgiving, I apparently didn't know much about the early colonists from the Mayflower.

The love story is sweet and gentle, and it's good to see both Mary Elizabeth and William growing steadily in their faith throughout the story. Considering the significant hardships the pilgrims endured, I didn't think the subplot with Peter really added to the story--there was plenty conflict as it was. Some writing styles grab me and others don't--this was one of the latter, and it took a lot longer to finish than it really should have. But if you want a recounting of the Mayflower, then this does a good job capturing the facts and presenting them in story form.

Daughters of the Mayflower
1. The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse
2. The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y'Barbo
3. The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep
4. The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse
5. The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear
6. The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall

Monday, February 5, 2018

"The Lost Castle" by Kristy Cambron - three moving storylines interwoven around a French chateau

The Lost CastleWhen Ellie's grandma, dying of Alzheimer's, reveals hints of a life Ellie never knew existed, she takes an impulsive trip to France to find out the rest of her story. Viola spent part of WWII hidden near a crumbling French chateau, a castle that had been burned once during the French Revolution, and then again not long before WWII. This is the story how the lives of three women--in the present, WWII, and the French Revolution--were profoundly affected by the fairy tale-like castle, Chateau de Doux Reves.

My problem with there being three storylines is that I wish they could each be a novel in their own right. But doubling or tripling the length of the book would work too. (For the record, this is my biggest complaint with the book--it simply wasn't long enough. I wanted more.) The three storylines are nicely interwoven, tied together by the crumbling, neglected castle.

Ellie's storyline--the present--was perhaps the hardest for me. She's dealing with her dying grandma, and it is only two years since I lost my own grandma, who was named Violet (very similar to Ellie's grandma Viola) and also also took part in WWII (though safe in a Nebraskan airplane factory, not with the French Resistance). So that aspect of it hit a little close to home. But I could also sympathize with Ellie's journey, as I also, on my first trip overseas, visited France, and it was definitely an experience.

Vi's storyline--WWII--is the most suspenseful and danger-filled. Her adventures in France, what brought her to France--all are exciting. I had a pretty good inkling where this story was going from early on, so I spent the story steeled for what I was pretty sure was bound to happen. And I was basically right.

Avaline's story--the French Revolution--was my favorite, in part because of my long love of The Scarlet Pimpernel and partly because it felt the most fairy-tale-ish, but mainly because I really liked her character. She's smart and makes a point to understand the politics of the day, but she's also incredibly generous--both unusual for a young woman of her station. She's also very honorable; even after her injuries and being separated from her fiance, she remains true to him.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for the free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, February 2, 2018

NEW Christian Fiction February 2018

Lots of good books being published this February!

A Light on the Hill (Cities of Refuge, #1) The Mayflower Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #1) Keturah (The Sugar Baron's Daughters, #1)
A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette (Bethany House); Cities of Refuge, book 1

When an introduction to a suitor goes horribly wrong, a scarred, young woman flees to a newly-established city of refuge.

The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse (Barbour); Daughter of the Mayflower, book 1

A carpenter and a separatist ride the Mayflower and Speedwell to the new world, but they arrive late in the year, and food is scarce and the people are weak. How many will survive to see the spring?

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren (Bethany House); The Sugar Baron's Daughters, book 1

Three daughters of a sugar baron travel to the West Indies to take over their deceased father's plantation, but the beautiful Caribbean has an ugly side they must learn to navigate.

A Refuge Assured The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy, #1) The Lost Castle
A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green (Bethany House)

A lacemaker flees France for Philadelphia with a young boy in tow--a boy that some suspect to be the Dauphin

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin (Revell); Sunrise at Normandy, book 1

An American naval officer and British WREN work together to create accurate maps of Normandy, preparing for D-Day.

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)

Three timelines--French Revolution, WWII, and present--merge in the story surrounding one of France's castles.

Monday, January 29, 2018

"Hearts Entwined: A Historical Romance Collection" by Witemeyer, Connealy, Jennings, and Jagears

Hearts Entwined: A Historical Romance Novella CollectionFour great authors of historical western romance team up again to present four novellas on a theme. Each is related to the author's own series.

"The Love Knot" by Karen Witemeyer: I loved seeing the progress of the women's colony--it's come far from the first story, No Other Will Do. And it's fun having Claire's story told, as she's been around since the beginning.

"The Tangled Ties that Bind" by Mary Connealy: Tangled family ties is more like it . . . It was fun revisiting the Kincaids/Regulators/Boden families again, through the eyes of the the children who were just babies when the first books took place.

"Bound and Determined" by Regina Jennings: After reading Holding the Fort, I was really hoping that Bradley would get his story told, and I didn't have to wait nearly as long as expected for it! He's just as fun and reckless as I'd anticipated. I'd had no notion that the US Cavalry once used camels--just the sort of odd historical tidbit that I love learning.

"Tied and True" by Melissa Jagears: How much does a girl have to go through before the man will believe she truly loves him? I kind of wanted to bash Calvin over the head for being so slow on the uptake. It proves that it's not just rich folk who are classist.

Overall, it's a fun collection of stories, infused with humor and a lot of tangled threads. They're especially good if you read the series that each story belongs to!

Related Novels:

Karen Witemeyer
Ladies of Harper Station
1. No Other Will Do
1.5: "Worth the Wait" (found in the All My Tomorrows novella collection)
2. Heart on the Line
2.5. "The Love Knot" (Hearts Entwined)

Mary Connealy
Kincaid Brides
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep 
3. Over the Edge

Trouble in Texas
1. Swept Away
2. Fired Up
3. Stuck Together

"Runaway Bride" (novella published in With This Ring?) ~ Big John Conroy, Carrie (Halsey)

Cimarron Legacy
0.5 "The Boden Birthright"
1. No Way Up
2. Long Time Gone
3. Too Far Down

"The Tangled Ties that Bind" (Hearts Entwined)

Regina Jennings
Fort Reno
1. Holding the Fort
1.5 "Bound and Determined" (Hearts Entwined)

Melissa Jagears
Teaville Moral Society
0.5: "Engaging the Competition" (Prequel novella from With This Ring? novella collection)
1. A Heart Most Certain
2. A Love So True
2.5: "Tied and True" (Hearts Entwined)
3. A Chance at Forever